If you’ve ever experienced a level of pain and distress so deep it takes your breath away, then you understand mental anguish.
More difficult than understanding what mental anguish is, is understanding the chain reaction of mental anguish, and how it affects our fundamental health and wellbeing.
In this article we explore the chain reaction of mental anguish, to understand the very real impact it has on our lives. We learn some cognitive techniques for stress management, and help you find your way out of this extreme level of mental suffering.
What Is A Chain Reaction Of Mental Anguish
What Is Mental Anguish
Mental anguish is a complex emotion where we experience extreme pain. It is a deep, rational response to a terrible situation. We can think of it as a combination of sorrow, fear, anxiety, and grief.
What Causes Mental Anguish
Many factors can contribute to or trigger mental anguish.
The loss of a loved one—whether suddenly or after a period of illness—can cause severe pain, feelings of helplessness, and impact our sense of security and identity.
The end of an integral relationship in our lives can do the same thing.
What matters when we examine the causes of mental anguish, are our individual responses to them. Comparing another person’s experience to your own is neither helpful or accurate, since we are each unique in how we react.
Chain Reaction Of Anguish On The Body
Regardless of when the event happens, there is a clear chain reaction that can be triggered when we experience mental suffering.
The first link: Stress
Our initial reaction is both physical and mental. In addition to feeling grief, sadness, fear, and helplessness, our body can also experience:
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid breathing
These are triggered by the cortisol our adrenal glands pump into our system.
The second link: Reasoning ; IQ
Our ability to think and retain information is quickly affected. One study showed that following a low-level painful experience, participants’ IQ dropped by 25% and reasoning by 30%. When we experience high-level pain, thinking and judging become extremely difficulty.
Over an extended period of time, these losses can impact our productivity. They can also affect our ability to make sound decisions.
The third link: Attitude
Feelings of pessimism, blame, guilt, and self-loathing are common at this point. To stop negative thinking and anxiety takes work. But it is achievable.
The fourth link: Isolation
Wanting to be alone to process our pain is normal. It’s also normal to feel resentful, and avoid socializing. If we feel angry, or like people are avoiding you, this can also lead to a feeling of isolation.
The ongoing effects: Physical symptoms
Mental anguish can lead to physical symptoms if not addressed. Reduced appetite can lead to unhealthy weight loss and malnutrition. You may experience insomnia, or symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
At the opposite end of the spectrum, mental anguish may present as excessive sleeping. Some people sleep a lot to escape their suffering, and neglect their hygiene, work, and responsibilities.
Cognitive Techniques For Handling Stress
There are many ways to stop stress and anxiety from consuming your life. Practicing the self-care tips below is a positive start, when even the most basic tasks seem unmanageable.
- If you’re not ready to commit fully to exercise, take it slow. Even small physical activity, like swinging your arms and walking around the room can improve blood circulation and help reduce stress hormones.
- Establish a routine. It can be as small as going to bed and waking up at set times.
- Eat regularly. Avoid skipping meals, even if you don’t feel hungry. A light, healthy snack can nourish your body and mind.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration is damaging to your whole body, including your brain. Water helps to flush out toxins and may help you feel better.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. Impaired reasoning is a key factor in mental anguish. Since alcohol and drugs also impair reasoning, you are doing yourself more harm than good by consuming them.
- Practice gratitude. You may feel like you have nothing to be grateful for, which makes this an even more valuable practice. Listing even the smallest things can improve your mindset over time.
Talking to someone you trust can be an effective start to your psychological healing. Self-care and being mindful of your feelings can also help your recovery.
If you find that you are still struggling despite this, it may be time to speak with a professional. However you get there, the important thing is to establish a plan to restore your mental and physical health.